A moonless night,
a faint trace of footsteps.
A sigh in the sky,
Everything else quiet.

Who was there?
Where did he go?
Only vague desires
rise in the thin air.

The sun set on my skin,
the breeze dropped a caress.
This is a first, this warm
wound of remembrance.

A dream I think,
or who knows,
a real effervescence.

Who was there?
Where did he go?
Only vague desires
rise in the thin air.

Are they to rise or must I grasp?
Are they a wisp already past?
Or perhaps a liquid love
that doesn't want to last.

(Adapted from 'Kapkapi' by Atif Aslam from the album 'Meri Kahani'. Listen to it here.)
Warning: This is the kind of sentimentality that might even embarrass Bhansali and Johar.

Now I can go on. When I first heard this song, from nowhere, rose this vision in my film-addled brain. I am over 90, alone, sitting in a high-backed chair, bent over a small empty desk made of solid wood. There is a large window behind me and a piece of paper in front, on which I am doodling. It is twilight outside; the fleeting twilight of the tropics. I hear the song; its playing in the room and yet its faint, as if a neighbour is playing it. As the song concludes, I just rest my head on the desk and die.

I translate, badly, my favourite lines.

ee nadadale sangeetha vide
ee galiyale swara veluthide
ale ale galalu
din rathri sandhya raga vide
sandhya raga vide
sandhya raga vide

A cadence in this music
rising in the wind.
A rhythm in every wave,
every day and night.
Night and day,
a twilight song is heard
A twilight song is heard.

After a haitus of two months, I watched two movies in a row -- Ranjhanaa and Lootera. Both stories that publicity managers itch to call 'alag prem kahani'. While Ranjhanaa has had mixed reviews, it has become utterly fashionable to gush about Lootera in the past two weeks. Oh! where do we look...should we admire the carefully-lighted and artefacted haveli or Sonakshi's sarees, or simply lean back to listen to the music and marvel at the sunshine-after-rain effect of the first half or drink in the starkness of the second. That is the general tone everywhere. Note that poor Ranveer, who has tried so hard, hardly gets a mention in all this breathlessness. That's not entirely unfair, but I will come to that later.  

Ranjhanaa is frankly strange. Puppy love? Tick. Banarasiya antics? Tick. Holi-rich cinematography? Tick. Recycled yet catchy music by Rehman? Tick. Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai? But of course, Benares hain bhai. Tick Tick. Bad acting by Sonam? Tick. Passable acting mostly because of novelty factor by Dhanush? Tick. Boggling politics, no, farce, no kiddish antics by fancy dress politicians? Tick. Tragic ending? Eh, if you say so, tick.

I am being rather harsh, I know, but what exactly did this movie want to say? That unthinking infatuation is bad for your health and the lives of many others? Or was it about the redemption of an impulsive, self-proclaimed bhole bhandari? By the way, the redemption didn't happen. Nope. Was the director trying to say this was actually true love all the way, both ways, just that the heroine had her head in the sand throughout it all moping about another man and fuming about her 'real' love? Whatever!

Lootera though is certainly a cinematic experience. (Yeah, I have to use this phrase...the twitterati and the reviewers have stuffed it down my throat nice and proper). All the elements that people have gushed about are in place. In fact, there are more. That Radha-Krishna temple, for instance, is a gem -- whether real or constructed. So was that lakeside whispering scene.

I thought about what exactly is niggling me and here it is. I didn't see enough of a connect between the lovers. Unspoken love I get; subtlety too I get. But what I missed was a strand invisible that connects the actors  and loops in the viewer and does it silently. A wisp of feeling where for a moment you become the yearning lover yourself, desperately waiting to hear the words that have already been uttered by your heart. There were, alas, only faint glimpses of this magic in Lootera and faint glimpses only.

I wonder why. Everything is in place and yet... Sometimes I think it is the lack of chemistry between the leads. No matter how many casting tests you do, this is something nobody can grasp till it actually happens. Or it might simply be weak acting in places. Or it might be laziness at the scripting/dialogue stages.

The subtlest of love stories too need powerful interactions. For instance, I felt it was necessary to showcase Ranveer's easy charm and how he reins in not just the daughter but also the father with this weapon. The director chose to do this with no dialogues and a sweeping background music. I think at least one scene depicting how charming this particular lootera could be was vital to grab at that strand I spoke about. It is another matter that there are actors gifted enough to convey such magnetism without dialogues but sorry, Ranveer's not the guy.

I have two other unconnected niggles. Why was Divya Dutta there? And why oh why was that hearttuggingly ephemeral 'Monta re' picturised so carelessly?

There is a scene in the second half of the movie where Ranveer and Sonakshi are in a lockjam with Ranveer trying to inject medicine into the forearm of the asthmatic Sonakshi whose ego isn't allowing her to accept succour from him. This scene could have been explosive -- the hopelessness of their love, the raw betrayal, the physical proximity leeching out the fight from them, the inevitable surrender  -- that's what the scene promised. Only promised. Sigh.

I have been waiting for Bollywood to get back to its ishq-mohabbat roots for ages. I crib constantly about the utter lack of love stories worth dhak-dhakking for. So this sudden abundance had me barking in excitement. Now I have seen both and as you can well see, I am full of niggles. No sign of rain yet. 

What I take back really is 'Monta re' Here it is.





cheek on book
husband complains
i smell of grass

oil spill on wet road
boy gurgles
at deflated rainbow

spicy dawn
wasp rests on
pepper stalk

night rain
lightning betrays
rat sneaking inside

rice grain stuck
in mother's teeth
halt to gossip

winter evening
ant circles
earthen lamp

summer afternoon
his hands find
all the right spots

morning after
snuggles into pillow

clammy evening
he flops on sofa to make
teeth-marks on apples

sheets of rain
torn carton on road
feels full again

foolish love for a
man waiting for
his turn at dentist

autumn dusk
leaf heap burning...
fire on fire

crow pecks at
dead rat
watched over by ravens

summer afternoon...
pigeons flap around
two-day old garbage

drifting pollen settles
on goat tied
to a kennel

string holding a bead
swings wildly on
child's cold neck

kite stuck in tree
floats down to river
fish too fly

drop of sweat down
my spine... another
summer memory assails

water drips from tap
footsteps cease...
new moon night

bend in mountain road
sleepy monkey peers
over the edge

torn envelope tucked
in office drawer
smells of lavender

child's cry outside window...
ice-candy man
rings cart bell

little waves recede
to reveal crimson claws...
crabs at dusk




polythene hides
spring colours on canvas
weeping walls

angry sunlight
dusk at edges
rushing blood

summer wind
a green leaf floats
life asunder

mayflower blossoms fall
on superfast bike
fleeting scarlet

dusk behind house
at the end of a
road to nowhere




dust on books
patterns that speak
of absence

grasshopper inside...
the tubelight protests
tough love

dusty bookstore, sudden
brush against a sleeve
spring fever

sweaty paper fan, split
in the middle

raw mango rests atop
old oranges in cart
summer heat

wet painting
water blob spills
mating colours





I miss my home. With every nadi. Nothing changes this yearning. Not years, not convincing myself of the joys I have found in new homes, not even the other joys that I have been blessed with. Even today, my dreams stubbornly locate themselves in that crooked house.

I miss everything about it -- its ugly front, the gates that were never closed, the cellar I never visited, the kennel that Ruby never used, the tortoise in the well, its joyful ramblingness, its needlessly long kitchen, its sweaty bathrooms and dirty toilets, the narrow winding passage from the studio to the terrace, the public phone booth, the tacky poster that declared that we only live once and if we live right once is enough, Ajji's room mirror which saw all my teenage warts, the hall divan where I always wished to sleep, just like Sudhi did, but never managed to, the dress room with its many joys and pains, Raghavendra's room with its mysteriously slippery floor (till the mystery was solved one day when I realised he spilled talcum powder every day hehe) ...sigh, I can go on as you can see. In my most weepy moments, I even miss its utter lack of privacy. Aah. That precious word privacy...when I think about it a little more deeply than usual, the tears stop.

Sometimes, when I describe the house I lived in for the first 18 years of my life to Siddharth, my wiring goes all weird; for a second (and this has happened several times), I wonder why am I taking so much trouble to describe it when I can just take him to Jain Temple street and show him! And then the thought vanishes. Of course. There is nothing to show. In its place are two apartment blocks, now not even shiny. Just ordinary.

When it was being demolished, I never summoned up courage to even attempt a peep. Now, I urge him to take 'that road' when driving back to our house from Amma's. And on that road, where the sights and sounds have changed beyond my comprehension, the smells assail me. The rushing home from school in time for the evening coffee, sitting in the 'hall' (never tony enough to be referred to as 'living room' its best moments, it became 'drawing room'), overcome by my shyness and yet cocooned in it, basking in that time of the day when all work is about to cease. Never liked coffee very much but its smell still makes me yearn.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. There were many fights in that house but my brain remembers none. But it remembers the evening communion television viewing and the accompanying jokes (invariably the same ones about vegetable-resembling newsreaders) vividly.

Then there was the sound of Amma's ring rubbing against my milk 'lota' as she cooled the hot Complan I drunk every day religiously.Cheeec cheec, cheec cheec. The most comforting music in the world. More music always poured out of our two-in-one, our most powerful weapon in the relentless battle we fought for space in our five feet by five feet room (at least it felt so) that expanded to store, according to my last memory, one large study table, one chair, one boiler, one stool, one small table which held a 14-inch colour tv, two wardrobes, one bed, one carrom board, many suitcases underneath the bed, one 'Rama' water filter, some assorted steel plates and tumblers, one tricycle and all our dreams and nightmares.

Yesterday I was in my home again. And like always it felt like home.





Will you look this way?
My love.
Will you look this way?

The seasons remember you.
Will you look their way?

The sky that wept yesterday,
The moon that later consoled the night,
Both asked me to say.

They long for your sight.
Will you look their way?

Mustard alight in the fields
The singing wind
The creeper sliding up the tree
The jasmine, dainty and free

They yearn for you, all of them.
Will you look their way?

Will you look this way?
My love.
Will you look this way?

Adapted from 'Piya Dekho Na' from the album Gunkali by Pakistani group Kaavish. Listen to it here.




The Jacaranda tree died long ago.
Nothing to remember it by.
Nobody thought of a plaque to mourn
the lavender leaning against the red brick.

I pass by. My eyes, they search
a cloud of dust. In furious hurry.
They lower.

February's arriving without you.
No one to widen the iris anew.
Spring's here, they say; but the Tabebuias still in gloom.
Nowadays, their yellows too take longer to bloom.